Friday, November 16, 2012

Kirimachi Unveils Tonkotsu Kuro Ramen

Is a media event warranted when a ramen shop adds a new item to its menu? In my humble opinion it is when that item is kuro ramen. I've posted before about kuro, or "black" ramen, made by adding a puree of charred garlic to a tonkotsu broth, and how it taught me I could really love a bowl of ramen.  It's a rare item   which, until the recent opening of Izakaya Roku, was not to be found in San Francisco at all. Imagine my joy, therefore, when my friends from Kirimachi Ramen, fresh from  a research tour of Japan, announced they were introducing it to my own 'hood, North Beach.

I got to sample a bowl of Kirimachi's Tonkotsu Kuro Ramen tonight at a media preview (in reality it was a preview of expanded non-ramen options on the new dinner menu as well).  As is the case with his other ramen offerings, Chef Leo shows a lighter hand than most, delivering a broth that reveals more than just salt and fat. In my limited experience with kuro ramen, I've learned that there is a whole range of "kuro-ness" to the broth, depending on how thoroughly charred (or browned) the garlic is. Far from the inky black color I first experienced in a kuro ramen at Hide-chan in New York, Kirimachi's kuro ramen is a golden brown, not so different in color from shoyu ramen, but worlds away in flavor, with a deep roast garlic flavor enriching the tonkotsu base broth.  My sample bowl came chock dull of chashu, bamboo and a soft-boiled egg.  I'd be tempted to add corn just to add a splash of color; overall, though, it positioned itself as my favorite among Kirimachi's hot ramen offerings, and definitely near the top of all the bowls of ramen I've had in San Francisco.

The ramen was preceded by an appetizer plate representing other likely candidates for Kirimachi's menu: Chicken Karaage with Kewpie mayonnaise, pork and vegetable Gyoza, Uni Donburi (sea urchin and salmon roe over rice).

Where slurped: Kirimachi Ramen, 450 Broadway, San Francisco

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